My youngest chickens (the group that a friend incubated for me) is 5 months old today. The two boys, unfortunately, are extra and will end up as dinner someday, but not yet, because they are still pretty scrawny.
I sold the two black/buff girls to a friend who has older chickens and hasn’t seen an egg in his coop for over a month. The girls aren’t laying yet, but they will be soon.
That leaves me with my 6 older buff orpington/cochin girls, 2 not-laying-yet 7 month old buff/blue girls, and 3 5 month old buff/blue girls. Oh, and my latest addition, a beautiful Blue Orpington rooster.
I added the blue orpington roo because he became available locally, and I want to breed him to buff orpington hens and get blue/buff orpingtons (my blue/buff girls right now are crossed with cochin, so they have feathered feet which get very muddy – orpingtons have clean feet). For $5 I couldn’t resist him – and he came from a show home – he’s HUGE and gorgeous!
So that’s 14 birds gobbling up the food, and we get an egg every other day from one of the youngest of the buff O girls. I don’t know if the older girls will start laying again someday. We’ll just have to wait and see what spring brings.
Planning for next year, I put in an order with a hatchery for buff orpingtons. I ordered 25 pullets (that’s baby girls) and 25 straight run (that’s a mix of boys and girls, however they come out of the egg). The boys will be raised for food. I felt better about doing it this way, because in big hatcheries they sex the chicks and the boys go right into the dog food bin (you don’t want anymore details than that). This way at least some of the boys will come here and get to run around and grow up. They’ll still end up as dinner, but they’ll get to enjoy their life for a bit first. One lucky boy will get to stay around and have his own flock of hens, because I’m hoping after this I’ll be able to keep a flock of buff O’s along with my separate blue/buff flock, and use the incubator to hatch and raise my own instead of buying from a hatchery.
I also plan to learn to butcher my extra birds for our dinners. Hopefully this doesn’t sound horribly cruel to anyone, but I have good reasons. First of all, because I let my birds hatch and raise chicks, every year I have extra roosters, and that’s a great use for them. Secondly, if I give them away or sell them at auction (like I did last year), they still get eaten, but I don’t know how they are treated until then – at least if I take care of them I know they’ve been treated humanely from start to finish. Third, I will know what they ate and how they were raised, and I think that is better than buying factory farmed chicken from the store. I probably should feel worse about this part of the plan, but I don’t, I actually feel like it’s quite natural. Under those feathers, they are, after all, chicken!
So that is where my flock stands as of today, and my plan for next year. We’ll see how it goes.